It saves you money, is better for your health and kinder for the environment, yep, a growing trend in many European cities has seen more and more people tuning in to the benefits of cycling: Rome is hoping that its bike sharing scheme could be the catalyst for greater cycling participation in the capital. But is Rome ready for 'bici in citta?'
On June 1 2009 Rome’s public transport company (ATAC) officially took over responsibility for the city’s still nascent bike sharing program. The Municipality took over operations from the previous operator Cemusa, a Spanish based multinational which ran a trial scheme that started last July.
The new ATAC service has 150 new bicycles for use with 19 stations throughout the city. To use the service you will need to register and purchase a 'smart card' from ATAC ticket counters at Metro stops Lepanto, Spagna and Termini. It’s 5 euros to initially charge your bike and then you can recharge any amount you want. To check out a bike just use the card reader on the column which unlocks the bike. When you have finished with the bike just return it to any cicloposteggio location. You can use the bike for a maximum of 24 hours.
Given Rome’s reputation for crazy drivers we took to the road to ask some bikers about their experiences of cycling in the Eternal City.
Matt Hural is an American architect who has been living in Rome since last September and has biked for the majority of it.
'Rome is a weird place to bike. It's simultaneously one of the safest places I've ever ridden and probably one of the most terrifying. The drivers are extremely conscientious and you can afford to be pretty aggressive', said Hural
Hural also said that it’s generally not cars that are the biggest hazards for cyclists but tourists and motorini.
'Losing your awareness even for a second can cause disaster; one tourist going against the flow can ruin everything and put you in danger. Also the motorini zipping in and out and paying no attention to anything you might be planning to do to negotiate all the cars means I'm constantly getting clipped or pushed to the side as they fly up the wrong side of the road or squeeze between two cars,' said Hural.
If the thought of cycling downtown fills you with dread then why not enjoy a more relaxing ride in Rome along the Tiber? There are a couple of decent routes like the one that runs from Ponte Sublicio (close to Viale Trastevere) to Ponte Marconi and ends up at Ponte della Magliana or the one that runs from the northern part of Rome at Ponte Risorgimento to Ponte Milvio and up to the Castel Giubileo dam.
Luis Antonio Carneiro, is a Portuguese lawyer who has been living in Rome since last September, he cycles every weekend in the centre of Rome and on the outskirts.
'Outside the centre of Rome there is a route that I like that starts from Saxa Rubra and goes to Ponte Milvio. There you see another way of life outside the centre of Rome related to agricultural activities. I find cycling very relaxing especially to get rid of the stress from the working week,' said Carneiro.
Roberta Miracapillo, is the president of the local group of Legambiente (League for the Environment) one of the biggest environment organizations in Italy which boasts over 115,000 members throughout the country. Miracapillo was involved in the running of MagnaLonga in Rome this May. The event saw 90 people take part in a fun cycling event around Rome.
Miracapillo said the event was organized so that people could have fun and meet new people, find new places and associations in Rome and learn about organic produce and where to buy it. 'We are sensitive about the use of bicycles and the state of bicycle paths and to say that there are a lot of people that would use the bike, if only it was safer and easier.'
The safety issue of cycling in Rome seems to be a valid concern as Miracapilo highlights on the problems she saw at first hand in the MagnaLonga tour. 'In general, the real problem was the presence of cars that did not respect bicycle even if accompanied by the police. They hoot us, they had no patience,' said Miracapillo.
It seems that for the moment anyway even having a police escort is no guarantee of an easy bike ride in Rome.
read this article in the 'FRIENDSINROME the International Voice' review
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